My life in relation to music and music appreciation is a little unusual. While most music enthusiasts I know have been into the good stuff since their teen years, it was only until about a year and a half ago that I began what could be considered an obsessive relationship with the deep-rooted and elusive world of (good) music. And not to sound ridiculously cheesy, but this passion has fulfilled that certain something in my life that was definitely missing. I dove headfirst, scooping up any albums I could get my hands on and filling my brain with varying levels of information about music, both present and historical. And now, look at me, creating a list of songs that I find most applicable to my life, one for every year since I was born. Rock on, my lovely Treble readers.
1982 – Bruce Springsteen “Atlantic City”
Though I have spent 23 years of my life in California, I spent my year of birth in New Jersey, a.k.a. the homeland of the Boss himself. And though I love California dearly, I remain fiercely true to my Jersey roots, for the Garden State is where my parents grew up and where many of my relatives still remain, including my grandparents. And appropriately enough, this is one of my favorite Springsteen songs, and it came out the same year I was born, in the state that Brucie and I share. Even more appropriately, my mother once informed me (much to my chagrin) that I was . . . ahem . . . conceived in a hotel near Atlantic City. Thanks, Ma.
1983 – Violent Femmes “Blister in the Sun”
One of my first ever inductions into the world of indie rock. In fact, I was almost castigated for not originally knowing what this song was. One doesn’t forget instances like that.
1984 – Madonna “Like a Virgin”
You love it too. Admit it, damnit, or I’ll go Kabbalah on your ass. Not that I really know what that means.
1985 – The Cult “She Sells Sanctuary”
A pure pop-rock gem. Admittedly, I was not listening to it when it came out, but I sure do enjoy it now. It was one of my early (and by early, I mean fall 2005) discoveries of one of my favorite ’80s singles.
1986 – Paul Simon “Under African Skies”
My dad has some good stuff nestled away in his vinyl collection, and Graceland is one of them. This song and others from the album used to appear on mix tapes my dad made for long family car trips, tapes I wish I could get my hands on again. I’ve also heard an a cappella rendition of this song that was fairly decent . . not that I listen to a cappella music . . . shhhhh . . .
1987 – New Order “Temptation”
By far, my favorite New Order song. It’s traditional New Order mixed with an extra layer of sweetness and romanticism that makes me want to dance and snuggle at the same time.
1988 – Pixies “Where is My Mind?”
I chose this song over other 1988 songs mainly due to its presence in Fight Club, of which both the movie and the book are favorites. I still can’t believe I had to hear James Blunt cover it this year at Coachella. Barf.
1989 – Pixies “Here Comes Your Man”
Although it’s extremely difficult to pick, this is my all-time favorite Pixies song, and it never fails to put me in a good mood. Not that I’m normally of a bad disposition, but masterfully-crafted upbeat songs like this one still help.
1990 – The Breeders “When I Was a Painter”
I’ll always have much love for female bass players for some reason, which makes me appreciate Kim Deal’s front role in The Breeders even more. This song in particular shows off Deal’s talents quite splendidly.
1991 – Nirvana “Smells Like Teen Spirit”
I was only nine years old when this song came out, but I still remember hearing it on HEAT 107.7 and feeling slightly overwhelmed when I saw the video on MTV, thanks to my teenaged sister being permanently tuned into both stations.
1992 – Aphex Twin “Pulsewidth”
While this song came out in 1992, it will always remind me of my oft-enthused presence in dance clubs starting around 2003. I feel the need to dance. I feel it in me feets.
1993 – Counting Crows “Anna Begins”
Yes, I know. You don’t have to say it. But regardless, I do hold a soft spot in my heart for August and Everything After. My best friend and I used to listen to it in her bedroom around the time it came out, reading Seventeen magazine and talking for hours about our respective crushes on our unsuspecting male peers (granted, this was before she realized that she was a lesbian and I realized that teen magazines are detrimental to girls’ collective levels of self-esteem). This particular song is my favorite for fairly obvious reasons.
1994 – Jeff Buckley “Hallelujah”
A classic, in so many ways. I can’t wait for the JB movie biopic to come out.
1995 – Oasis, “Wonderwall”
One of the few songs on this list that I was actually listening to the year it came out. This song took the mainstream by storm, and I still know the lyrics word-for-word. It was played recently at a pub trivia night that I attended, and the entire bar exploded when it came on, yelling along and spilling our beers. Pure magic.
1996 – Brendan Benson “Cherries”
I love Brendan Benson. I really do. I don’t care that his lyrics can occasionally be goofy and superfluous, because I think everything else he creates as a musician is more significant, and heâ€™s become a permanent staple in my listening rotations. And in true indie style, I believe that his earliest work stands out as his best (although I’m inclined to gush about his later stuff as well). “Cherries” is my favorite from One Mississippi, and, yes, one of my favorite fruits.
1997 – Sleater-Kinney “Little Babies”
Not to sound too girly, but I cried when Sleater-Kinney broke up. Rocking out just as hard as the boys do, they were a groundbreaking group that peaked at absolutely fantastic with 2005’s The Woods. “Little Babies” is a collective showcase of all three ladies’ talents, and sets the early grounds for their last hurrah. I love them. I’m still kicking myself for only catching a small portion of their set at Coachella.
1998 – The Beta Band “Dry the Rain”
Probably one of my top five favorite songs — High Fidelity reference obviously intended. This song was playing when I drove through the Joshua Tree with a new friend, when I fell in love at a house party, and it will most likely provide more backdrops to future scenes of my life.
1999 – Built to Spill “You Were Right”
My favorite Built to Spill song, next to “Velvet Waltz.” It makes me want to get in the car and drive across the country with no plans whatsoever, other than to explore the open road as a favorite pastime.
2000 – Mirah “Sweepstakes Prize”
I keep an open-ended list of songs that I love to sing along to while alone in my apartment or driving in my car, and this song is one of them. It’s also my favorite Mirah song, on several levels of nostalgia and romanticism.
2001 – Pinback “Penelope”
Pinback’s albums, I believe, are best heard as a whole — i.e., the quality of the songs are enhanced when heard in sequence. However, “Penelope” has the ability to stand on its own, and those haunting, lofting tones still get me every time. This is one of those songs that once I discovered it, I couldn’t turn it off, and I probably listened to it at every chance I got for at least a week.
2002 – The Mountain Goats “Southwood Plantation Road”
John Darnielle’s tunes have the innate ability to climb inside your heart and eat you alive, emotionally speaking. This song will always remind me of a certain someone and how he chose this song for me, and while it was painful for awhile, I can now listen to this song and be happy.
2003 – The Decemberists “The Chimbley Sweep”
I’ll always love the Decemberists, no matter what, and this song represents the Portland group in all their glory. So much fun, so infectious, and so unique in style and substance. It will always be the song that I’ll think of when remembering what the Decemberists have managed to accomplish.
2004 – Joanna Newsom “Sadie”
When I first heard Joanna Newsom, my reaction was as follows: “What the hell is this?” Hearing The Milk-Eyed Mender another time, however, I absolutely fell in love, and I think she’s simply amazing, on many levels. And “Sadie” is my absolute favorite — it’s nostalgic and sweet and playful and heartbreaking all in one. Newsom, and this song, remain a landmark for me in my journey to the position I am in now, writing about and exploring music, writing this column, for this zine, and whatever else develops along the way.
2005 – The New Pornographers “These Are the Fables”
Our own Jeff Terich noted in his review of Twin Cinema that any attempts to pick a favorite song from the New Pornographers album “would prove impossible,” and I am not inclined to argue. Personally, I can’t choose a favorite myself, but in regards to which song was most personally significant to me in the year 2005, I claim that land in the name of “These Are the Fables.” Having just moved to a new city for a new job and consequently a new life in the fall of 2005, I battled with loneliness and uncertainty in a place where the only people I knew were Cal frat boys and an ex-boyfriend’s best friend, making our interactions awkward at best. “These Are the Fables,” fronted by Neko Case in all her beauty, is a picturesque craftwork of melodic pop music that served as an extraordinary comfort to me as I wandered the streets of Berkeley, searching for connection and a sense of belonging in my vulnerable state of being. My life has changed only for the better since then, but this song still resonates significantly with my personal well-being.
2006 – The Raconteurs “Level”
I am fortunate enough to live right near San Francisco, allowing me the opportunity to see a shitload of live music shows. I even got to see the performance of a band that made their own instruments, including guitars made from boxes and synthesizers made from light switches. And of all the musical acts that I saw this year, whose album came out this year (got that?), the Raconteurs put on the best show yet (it’s true — they rocked the pants off Band of Horses and Yo La Tengo, figuratively speaking). I was worried going into the concert that I wouldn’t have a good time, considering I was exhausted and stinky from a day at Marine World in 100+ degree heat — but it was one of those totally rockin’ concerts where you’re having so much fun that you forget how tired and/or cranky you may be. I went with my dear friend Natalia, the first friend I made upon moving to the East Bay, and we jumped around and squealed like pre-pubescent girls whenever Brendan Benson and Jack White shared a microphone (“OMG what if they started making out OMG?!?!?!”), and it still marks one of the best nights out I’ve spent this year. “Level” was one of the highlights of the concert, though it was difficult to pick just one. Natalia even caught Mr. Benson’s guitar pick when he threw it out into the crowd after the show, and yes, I’m still jealous.